The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is comprised of 323 parliamentarians spanning the geographical area from Vancouver to Vladivostok. It provides a forum for parliamentary diplomacy and debate, leads election observation missions and strengthens international co-operation to uphold commitments on political, security, economic, environmental and human rights issues. The Assembly also develops and promotes mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflicts, supports the development of democratic institutions in participating States and provides transparency and accountability to the OSCE. Its Annual Sessions offer extensive policy recommendations to the governmental side of the Organization. The Assembly's Special Representatives focus on issues ranging from border co-operation to national minorities and areas ranging from Afghanistan to the South Caucasus. The Assembly also dispatches parliamentary field visits and fact-finding missions and maintains close ties with the Commonwealth of Independent States Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Inter-Parliamentary Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Its International Secretariat is based in Copenhagen.
The High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) gets involved in a situation if, in her/his judgement, there are tensions involving national minorities which could develop into a conflict. Much of the day-to-day work is in identifying and addressing causes of ethnic tensions and conflicts. The High Commissioner addresses the short-term triggers of inter-ethnic tension or conflict and long-term structural concerns. If a participating State is not meeting its political commitments or international norms, the High Commissioner will assist by providing analysis and recommendations. Based on experience, the HCNM publishes thematic Recommendations and Guidelines that give advice on common challenges and best practice. The High Commissioner also provides structural support through small collaborative projects that aim to achieve sustainability through increasing local ownership.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) provides support, assistance and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights and tolerance and non-discrimination. ODIHR observes elections, reviews legislation and advises governments on how to develop and sustain democratic institutions. The Office conducts training programmes for government and law-enforcement officials and non-governmental organizations on how to uphold, promote and monitor human rights.
The Representative’s activities can be divided into two groups: observing media developments as part of an early warning function and helping participating States abide by their commitments to freedom of expression and free media. This includes efforts to ensure the safety of journalists; assist with the development of media pluralism; promote decriminalization of defamation; combat hate speech while preserving freedom of expression; provide expert opinions on media regulation and legislation; promote Internet freedom; and assist with the process of switching from analogue to digital broadcasting. The Representative also holds annual regional media conferences, bringing together journalists, representatives of civil society and government, as well as academics, to discuss current media freedom issues.
The main mechanism offered by the Convention is conciliation, which aims at proposing terms of settlement to the States Parties to a dispute. This mechanism can be activated unilaterally by any State party to the Convention for a dispute between it and one or more other States parties. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the conciliation commission presents a report and recommendations to the Parties. The Parties then have thirty days to decide whether they accept those or not. If there is no agreement within that period, and if the parties have agreed to submit to arbitration, an ad hoc arbitral tribunal may be set up whose ruling will be legally binding on the Parties. Arbitral proceedings may also be initiated by agreement between States parties concerned.
The Minsk Group, the activities of which have become known as the Minsk Process, spearheads the OSCE's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is co-chaired by France, the Russian Federation, and the United States.